Guide: Education in Charlotte
Charlotte offers a variety of public and private education options, each offering a different experience for every child. And as each child is unique with different needs and interests, these myriad of education options often create scenarios where children from the same family are scattered in various schools across the county. These scenarios are a statement on the diversity of our school options and are a positive statement on the state of our educational landscape.
However, to be perfectly honest, trying to figure out the options and how to access them can be a nightmare. There is a big learning curve, but once you decipher the process and options, you will be well prepared for battle. In addition, schools can be a large contributing factor for homebuyers and they’re also a notable variable in home values. Even if you’re a buying a home with no kids in the foreseeable future, it’s wise to consider the health of your school district.
Ah, preschool. That joyous time when potty training, naps, and snacks are at the forefront. When the thought of having a few hours a week of separation creates anxiety and unmeasurable elatedness at the same time. There are many, many preschool options in the Charlotte area, serving needs from a few hours a week to all day childcare options. Be sure to visit these places at least once before you sign your little one up. Also, word from the wise – start your research early, some of these spots already have wait lists for the future Ivy Leaguers of Charlotte.
To locate your home school, go here and enter your address and choose “Home School.”
Public school options in Charlotte extend far beyond just attending the school your home is zoned for. While the vast majority of students follow this traditional route, there are others who opt for the magnet school route.
The rules and processes behind entry into a magnet school can seem like a confusing web, one that’s frustrating to decipher. However, the work it takes to gain entry into a magnet program can be well worth the effort if you’re eager to find an alternative solution to attending your home school.
First of All, What is a Magnet School?
Magnet programs are theme-based programs focused on not necessarily just what is taught but how it’s taught as well. They are designed to promote students’ interest, abilities and talents. In CMS, the content is taught in adherence to the magnet theme as well as the Common Core and NC Essential Standards (formerly known as the North Carolina Standard Course of Study) curriculum. CMS Magnet Programs.
CMS Magnet Programs Calendar
(Based on 2013-2014. Check the CMS Magnet Programs website for details on upcoming years.)
- November – First Lottery Instruction letters begin arriving in homes for enrolled students
- December – Students may begin applying for the First Lottery
- January – School Options Fair; Last day for new students to enroll and be eligible for the First Lottery; Last day for all students to apply for the First Lottery
- February – First Lottery Notification letters begin arriving in homes
- December-March – Request for Reassignment period for First Lottery
- March – Students may begin applying for the Second Lottery; Second Lottery Instruction letters begin arriving in homes for enrolled students
- May – Last day for new students to enroll and be eligible for the Second Lottery
- June – Last day for all students to apply for the Second Lottery
- June-July – Request for Reassignment period for the Second Lottery
- June – Second Lottery Notification letters begin arriving in homes
- December-July – Request for Transfer period
- February-May – Request for Transfer period
How Does the CMS Lottery Work?
The lottery is used to assign students to school options programs. The lottery runs on the following priorities:
- Students who live within the designated Magnet Proximity Area of a whole magnet school (typically a ⅓ mile radius around the school).
- Students who live in the magnet transportation zone will be admitted in order of lottery number, so long as the maximum number of students admitted from any one elementary home school is proportional to the total number of potential applicants in the transportation zone.
- All students who live in a magnet transportation zone will be admitted in order of lottery number.
- All students who live outside the magnet transportation zone will be admitted in order of lottery number (transportation will not be provided).
Charter schools provide parents a second public school option and are primarily funded by public local, state and federal tax dollars. They operate under individual boards of directors that report directly to the state. The schools have open enrollment, with a lottery system if necessary, with no discrimination, no religious associations, and no tuition. Charter schools also must provide special education and related services to all eligible students.
The only requirement to get into a charter school is the availability at the school in the requested grade. Visit each charter school’s website for application and enrollment information.
List of Charter Schools:
There are dozens of private school options in Charlotte for those who have grown weary of the public school option or prefer a different educational experience for their children. These schools are often referred to as “independent” schools because they are not governed by local, state, or federal government and as such, have the ability to choose their students at their own discretion, based on their own guidelines. These schools are typically organized to include a board of directors responsible for the oversight and vision of the school, executed by the school’s administration. Funding for private schools are primarily generated via tuition payments from students and fundraising within the school and community.
The application and entry process for private schools vary by school. However, a typical sequence includes:
Visit the School/Take a Tour > Submit Your Application > Complete an Entrance Test > Meet with Faculty > Submit Recommendations > Submit Transcripts > Notification/ Decision
For many families navigating the private school entry process, uncertainty about testing creates the most anxiety. Though not every school participates in cognitive testing, it is a requirement for many as it is a helpful screening instrument to help determine if the child and school are a good “match”. The good news is that once your child has taken these tests, they can use the results to apply for multiple schools. The bad news is that these tests are typically administered by a psychologist and you will need to find, schedule, and pay for your own testing.
- Locate your Home School
- Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) Home Page
- CMS Magnet Programs
- CMS Magnet Program Guide
- North Carolina Association of Independent Schools (NCAIS)
- North Carolina Office of Charter Schools
- North Carolina School Report Cards
Between private, public, charter, and magnet programs, Charlotte is fortunate to offer a healthy amount of diverse education options. And with the increased interest in charter schools, the Charlotte education landscape will continue to evolve. Often, the biggest challenge for families is discovering the available school choices and learning how to navigate the lottery or entry process. These hurdles shouldn’t dissuade families from optimizing their children’s educational experience; all the information is out there, but sometimes hard to find and decipher.
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